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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Cheating the Ferryman


Cheating the Ferryman: A New Paradigm of Existence?

By Anthony Peake

What happens when we die? This is the ultimate question and one that we still have no real answer. From the first few moments that man became a self-aware being he has pondered upon this mystery.
Every culture has attempted an explanation, and it is reasonable to conclude that all religions exist to give an account of what happens at that moment and, more importantly, where does the person go after their body dies.
One of the most enduring myths is that of the Ancient Greeks. They believed that the recently dead would find themselves at the banks of a vast river, the River Styx. Out of the mists would appear Charon, the Ferryman. It was his job to ferry the soul, termed a “Shade,” across to the other side…. To the Land of the Dead.
But he did not do this for free. He needed a payment. The relatives of the recently dead person made sure the Shade could pay the ferryman. This payment was usually a small coin called an obolus. Depending upon the tradition, either this would be placed under the tongue of the corpse or two oboli would be placed over each eye.
This well known myth still resonates over three thousand years later. “To Pay The Ferryman” can still be heard today. However, there is a lesser known myth that suggests a deeper truth: The myth of the River Lethe.
The Greeks believed that before getting to the banks of the Styx the Shade would encounter a much smaller tributary of the great river. This could be crossed with ease by wading from bank to bank. This small river was called the Lethe, and its waters contained a profoundly important quality.
If the Shade or newly deceased soul drank of this water all their memories would evaporate. They would forget who they are and the events of their life. Their memories would become like those of a new born baby. Of course by doing so the Shade also forgot all of the lessons learned during that life.
But before doing this the Shade had the option of drinking from a small pool next to the Lethe. This was the Spring of Mnemosyne. By drinking here the Shade’s past-life memories became sharp and distinct. Each action and its subsequent effects became crystal clear. Life’s lessons became precise and understood.
If the Shade drank of the Spring of Mnemosyne they were allowed to pay the ferryman, board the boat, and sail across the Styx to the Elysian Fields.
But if a drop of the waters of the Lethe was drunk by the Shade, then they were sent back to be reborn again with no memories of their previous life. Now this was not a form of reincarnation as it is understood by most people. It was a re-birth process in which the same life was lived again. The Shade found itself back in its mother’s womb waiting to start all over again.
This concept is called “The Eternal Recurrence” and has been a long held alternative belief to that of the linear life found in most religions, even those who have reincarnation as their central belief.
However, those who have long held this belief never shared it with the masses. Such a belief has always been found in the secret – esoteric – groups within most of the major religions. This is the great secret carried through the ages by the groups loosely termed as “Gnostics.”
The Gnostic tradition can be found behind the great mystery traditions of the Middle East and Europe. From the Manicheans of Persia to the Cathari of Southern France, and from the Cabbalists of Southern Spanish Judaism to the Sufi’s of Arabia, this hidden knowledge is the real Holy Grail in whose defence the Knights Templar and the Albigenesians died in their thousands to protect.
In my books I present evidence for this belief system, that at the moment of death we are catapulted back to our moment of birth. The theory is supported by a good deal of evidence from modern science, particularly quantum physics, neurology, psychiatry and consciousness studies.
I call this theory “Cheating the Ferryman” because I suggest many of us never make it across the River Styx. We never step into Charon’s boat and we never pay him his obolus. We cheat the ferryman out of his fare and return to live our lives again.
On what evidence do I base such a totally weird idea?
Dreams & Precognitive Déjà Vus
Well, for me, the whole theory started with one very peculiar dream. In this dream I experienced a déjà vu… yes a dream that contained the sensation that I was experiencing an event that I had dreamed before, if that makes sense. In the dream I had an inner dialogue with another me and this being stated that a déjà vu is a memory of an event that you have lived before in a different life. I then woke up with this idea echoing round my mind.
I had for some time wanted to write a book and now it seemed that my dream self, or more accurately a part of my dream self, had given me both the theme and the incentive. I was surprised to discover that déjà vu is not only the most common anomalous psychological perception (70% of people will experience the sensation at least once in their lives) but also that experts have no real idea what causes it. Various suggestions have been made but none have been shown to be correct.
As an example, for many years a proposal made by the psychiatrist Paul Efron was considered to have nailed the mystery. Efron suggested that one part of the brain processes information before the other. In this way we have the feeling of experiencing an event twice. This occurs because each hemisphere of the brain receives signals from the right and left visual fields of each eye. As such the non-dominant hemisphere processes the incoming images a split second before the dominant hemisphere. So, in effect, the consciousness receives the signal twice with a short time delay. As one signal is immediately, but not fully, over-written by another we feel as if we have experienced the images twice. But this curious message transferal only works for the eyes. It has recently been shown that congenitally blind individuals experience aural déjà vu sensations. As the brain processes sound in a totally different way to sight, the Efron thesis simply cannot explain this form of déjà vu.
I wondered if déjà vu may not be simply what it feels it is: a curious sensation that suggests the observer has lived this moment before. The Seattle based psychiatrist Dr. Vernon Neppe has defined déjà vu as, “any subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of the present experience with an undefined past.”
So the “undefined past” could be part of this life or a past life. However this ‘past life’ for me did not imply reincarnation for one simple reason: for a déjà vu sensation to be effective it has to be a memory of the exact circumstances, not a circumstance that is similar. For example, if my “subjectively inappropriate impression” consisted of me remembering being in this place in Victorian times, the two images would be quite different. The location may be the same but my clothing, my companions and the décor would be totally different. It would feel more like a time-slip than a doubling of consciousness. For a déjà vu to be a déjà vu the two impressions have to be identical, in all ways. My memory of the event is identical to my experiencing of the event. I am literally re-living an event from my own past, but a past that is, for the moment, the future.
Indeed, I have now interviewed many people who experience precognitive déjà vu’s. The ‘memory’ includes a remembrance of what happens/happened next. The subject suddenly has very short-term clairvoyance.
I found that these precognitive déjà vu sensations are usually reported by individuals who experience three brain-states: migraine, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and schizophrenia. I was intrigued as to why this was the case and began researching what may link these three ‘illnesses’. Much to my delight I found there is one common factor, a neurotransmitter called glutamate.
Perception and Time Distortion
In a curious coincidence that was to have great significance to me later, I learned that neurotransmitters were first discovered by an Austrian scientist called Otto Loewi. Just like me, Loewi had a dream guider. On Easter Sunday 1920 he awoke in the middle of the night having experienced a really vivid dream. He wrote down what he had experienced and went back to sleep. The next morning he excitedly looked at his notes to find them to be illegible scrawl. He knew that he had dreamed something of profound importance so he went to bed early the next night. The dream came again and when he awoke he reproduced his dream experiment exactly as he experienced it that night. In doing so he isolated a substance that was to eventually be called acetylcholine. Such was the importance of this discovery that in 1936 Dr. Loewi and his English associate Sir Henry Dale were awarded the Nobel Prize.
What Loewi’s dream had helped find was the first example of the chemicals that were later to be called neurotransmitters. These are internally-generated substances that facilitate the transmission of messages from cell to cell within the body. The most important group is found in the brain and glutamate is the most important of the brain neurotransmitters.
Glutamate is directly responsible for the peculiar feelings described by migrainers, temporal lobe epileptics and schizophrenics, specifically a sensation that is technically known as “the aura.”
The aura is a form of early warning system. It is triggered by over-production of glutamate and usually takes place a short time before an attack of migraine or a temporal-lobe seizure. (Glutamate’s role in schizophrenia is different but the overall outcome is similar). Experiencers report sensations of time slowing down, of hyper-sensitivity, of visual or aural hallucinations and profound déjà vu sensations. Déjà vu had been linked with both migraine and TLE for years before Loewi’s serendipitous discovery.
Here was the link I had been looking for. Déjà vu has, as one of its causes, a flood of glutamate in the brain. It was then that I made my first big step to “Cheating the Ferryman.”